Giant Steps had been operating for over 30 years and enjoyed a positive reputation in the Connecticut special education community right up until it closed its doors in June. Families were unaware that closing Giant Steps was even a possibility. The impact on them is hard to overstate. There are no other programs like Giant Steps located in the area. This is a population of kids who need therapy and support every day to regulate maladaptive behaviors. Otherwise, they are prone to significant regression.
As a result, there were multiple stakeholders whose incentives were aligned in wanting a comparable program to reopen. Parents and their special needs kids positively needed it; their children were sufficiently challenged that there were limited if any options for them other than a reconstructed program substantially similar to Giant Steps. The staff was unemployed. And school districts were wrestling with what to do with some of their most challenging children they are legally obligated to serve appropriately.
This morning I told our daughter that school was still closed because there were still a lot of “sick” people around. She was relieved and upset all at the same time. For now, I see no reason to tell her that Giant Steps no longer exists…mostly because I can’t tell her where her new school will be. I always thought school was a given…that no matter what a child would go to school. But the longer I am living special needs the more I see that is simply not the case. Before everyone gets in an uproar about the laws and the obligations of my school district, let me assure you: I have an amazing school district. Since the moment Giant Steps abruptly closed their doors, Wilton has been brainstorming on how a child like ours could return to some school. And before everyone tells me that an alternative private placement must be found, let me assure you that in my area there is absolutely nothing that could meet my daughter’s special needs. So here we are in limbo. I have a child without a school even though the State has declared it acceptable for the neediest to receive in person instruction and services. While she should be receiving something, she is not. I hope by fall we can find a new school so that the two of us can begin to move on with our lives.